Years back I remember playing this ice breaker game with colleagues, in which I had to answer the question, "Which one of your five senses would you hate to live without?" Immediate gut reaction, "Taste."
Granted, taste and smell truly go hand in hand, it's my sense of taste which serves as a guidepost. The other week my friend Michelle texted me looking for flavors to boost her soup for her family's dinner. Making it more tricky was her son's many food allergies, but I think we solved the problem. I concluded to my math major friend, "This is the type of 'math' problem I enjoy."
One of my practices is harnessing the power of tasting by continuing tasting multiple spices, combinations and foods. Our taste buds are like a muscle needing food exercise. The only way to create "muscles" are through many food experiences. It's why we get to try food seven times before we can truly form an opinion about it.
Here are ways I harness the sense of taste:
- Try new restaurants, so I don't go by my old standby.
- I specifically go to Ciao Thyme in town as I know their menu changes every week.
- As I cook, I taste, taste, taste.
- I have taught my tongue how to wield taste & smell of food combinations through the many tastes.
- I rely on my Flavor Bible when in doubt.
- I pick up cookbooks and food magazines to be inspired.
- When I find something that works, I stick with it.
- As we taste various cuisines and flavors, we come to realize how our palates work (ie more salt, more acid, sweetness, etc).
- What do I mean by acid? lemon, vinegar, sometimes you only need a splash of vinegar or lemon to liven up a dish
- Not all vinegars are created equal, white vinegar, apple cider, red wine, etc
- now when too much is too much. Like my elementary art teacher always said, "less is more." I think generally this applies.
- Start with one spice, get to know her, take her on a couple dates.
- Eat fruits and vegetables in season.
- You don't have to like what everyone else does.
- With above it's like writer's finding their own voice, find your taste and harness it.
- Yet still, be willing to try new flavors, be adventurous and enjoy the process.
- As we eat dinner, or lunch, drink wine, smell it, dissect it. Write down what it is that you are tasting. Ben always liked poppy seed muffins, later finding out I asked him if he liked lemon poppyseed muffins, he said no. It was the almond extract commonly found in poppyseed muffins he was drawn to.
- Do taste tests. Buy different chocolates and do a blind test with your friends or even your kids, noting the mouth feel, sweetness, bitterness.
Those are just some of mine.